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Top 10 – Vet School Journey

By Juliet Armstrong

 

Juliet Armstrong - Manchester Veterinary Clinic - CT

“The hardest part is getting in” … you’ll hear it over and over again as you prepare your veterinary applications, travel to schools for nerve-wracking interviews, and yet again when you sit down on your first day of vet school.

The other advice you’ll also hear: get good grades, be yourself, plan ahead …. all very generic, but nonetheless very important words of wisdom for the application process  and the vet school journey.

As a fourth year veterinary student here are my top ten things to remember about the journey:

1.  Keep an open mind. The degree you earn at the end of four years gives you the opportunity to do more than just vaccines, spays, and neuters. You never know where opportunity and interest may lead you.

 

2.  Acquire a diverse set of animal related experiences – it’ll make you a well-rounded applicant. Examples to consider include: shelters, large animal ambulatory units, small animal private practice, small animal referral/specialty practices, zoos/aquariums, wildlife centers, high volume spay-neuter clinics, dairy units, laboratory/research animal facilities, alternative/integrative/complimentary medicine practices (acupuncture, chiropractic's, Chinese herbals), service dog organizations, international medicine, groomers.

 

Juliet Armstrong - Manchester Veterinary Clinic - CT

3.  Figure out why you are passionate about veterinary medicine. Everyone that applies loves animals and is intelligent, creative, hardworking, and accomplished. Be proud of your individuality and figure out how you can set yourself apart from the rest of the applicants. For starters, most of you already know that you want to be a veterinarian, and I’m sure for most it’s been a long time dream. As much as this may be true, it’s important to find what it is that you like about veterinary medicine, what drives/motivates you and to try and pinpoint some moment or experience that made you decide to embark on the lifelong journey in veterinary medicine. It may sound like a daunting task, but if you can do this, you will be one step ahead of the game in terms of preparing a unique personal statement and guiding your path through the profession.

 

4.  Start your personal statement early and have as many people read it as possible. Don’t be ashamed to talk about yourself and highlight your strengths and individuality because it’s a very important part of your application package.

Juliet Armstrong - Manchester Veterinary Clinic - CT

 

5.  Talk to as many people as possible. Ask for the good and bad about the schools, application processes, curriculums, and advice. To that end, talk to people – veterinarians and students alike – to have them candidly explain all aspects of their education – the worst and the best.

 

6.  Do your research (VMCAS and student doctor websites, Vet Med School Admission Requirements book)! Know when applications are due, which schools have supplemental applications, and what the pre-requisite requirements are. When it comes to deciding where to apply … consider it all: prerequisite requirements, geographic location, special services/strengths of each program, cost of living, eligibility for in-state tuition (vet school is no cheap endeavor!) and tracking or career areas of emphasis in the school’s curriculum. Plan however suits you best, but don’t be afraid to go out on a limb and apply to a program. To be honest, I have no specific reason as to why I applied to the veterinary school I currently attend – I just went for it – and I couldn’t be happier!

 

7.  Don’t get bogged down by one aspect of the application – remember that it is a total package you are presenting to the admissions committee – including the interview process.

 

8.  Letters of recommendation – get excellent letters, not just letters, and get them from people who you have worked with for more than just a few weeks so that they can speak to your character, work ethic, knowledge, and professionalism in a well rounded/informed way. With each experience, think about how you are building a network within the profession. The veterinary community is very small and getting to know key players in the community may open the door to some unbelievable opportunities – some of which might alter your career path and focus within the veterinary field.

 

9.  Don’t panic (easier said than done, I know)! It’s important to be yourself during interviews.  I know many people who were borderline applicants on paper but were able to impress the selection committees enough during their interviews to be granted a seat in the class. As for the actual interview process – it’s not supposed to be scary. You are interviewing the school as much as they are interviewing you. They might push your buttons to see how you handle stress (for instance, I was told that I had arrived late for my interview and may have to reschedule as a test of my ability to cope with change in a high stress environment) but it’s all to make sure you will be able to handle the rigors of vet school.

 

10. Have fun and don’t be afraid to ask questions! Veterinary school is an experience like no other, it will change you in ways that high school and undergraduate education did not, and it will go by much faster than you will believe!

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Juliet Armstrong - Manchester Veterinary Clinic - CT

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